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Full text of "Life of Naomi Wise : true story of a beautiful girl, enacted in Randolph County, N. C., about the year 1800"

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North Carolina State Library 




Enacted in Randolph County, N. C , About the Year 1S00 


Over one hundred years ago there lived where New Saiem now 
is, m the northern part of Randolph Co,, N. C, a very open and 
warmhearted gentleman by the name cf William Adams. A few 
families of nature's noblest quality lived in the vicinity. They were 
not very rich, but were honest, hospitable and kind; they knew 
neither the luxuries nor vices of high life. Their farms supplied 
•enough for their own tables, and sufficient for a brisk trade with 
Fayetteville, N. C. The wild forest hills and immense glades in the 
•neighborhood afforded bountiful quantities of game; whilst Deep 
River abounded with the finest fish. At that time the inhabitants 
were be no means so thickly settled as at present; trading as a 
■regular business was unknown except to a few merchants. The 
people were somewhat rude; still, however, hospitable and kind. 

At William Adams' lived Naomi Wise, She had early been 
fchrown upon the cold charity of the world, and she had received 
the frozen crumbs of that charity. Her size was medium, her figure 
beautifully formed, her face handsome and expressive, her eyes 
keen yet mild, her words soft and winning. She was left without 
father to protect, mother to counsel, brothers and sisters to love, or 
f riends with whom to associate. Food, clothing and shelter must 
be earned by the labor of her own hands; not such labor, however, 
as females at this day perform. There was no place for her but the 
'kitchen, with the prospects of occasionally going to the field. This 
>the poor orphan accepted willingly; she was willing to labor; she 


was ashamed to beg. The thousand comforts that parents can find' 
I or their children are never enjoyed by the fatherless. Fanaticism 
may rave over the chains of the African, the pity of sixteen States 
poured out for the Southern negro; great meetings held to move 
on emancipation; but who pities the Orphan ? May the Lord pity 
him — man will not. 

At the time of which we speak ne'ghborhoods were nearly dis- 
tinct; all that lived in the same vicinity generally bearing the same 
name. To account for this, we have only to recollect that most of 
our settlers migrated from Pennsylvania and Virginia, and that fam- 
ilies generally came and settled together. Physical force being 
generally necessary for self defense, such families made a kind of 
treaty, offensive and defensive. Sometimes, however, the most 
deadly feuds broke out among themselves. Such was the case with, 
tie Lewis family that settled on Sandy Creek. Old David Lewis 
probably came from Pennsylvania; at least an old gentleman by the 
name of Buehman told the writer so. Buchanan was personally 
acquainted with the Lewises. David had a considerable family 6i 
boys, all of whom were noted for their great size and strength. 
This was in every respect a very peculiar family; peculiar in appear- 
ance, in character and destiny. The Lewises were tall, broad, mus- 
cular and powerful men. In the manner of fighting very common 
at that time, viz: to lay aside all clothing but pants, and then try 
i)r the victory by striking with the fist, scratching, gouging and' 
biting, a Lewis was not to be vanquished. The family were lions 
of the country, Their character was eminently pugnacious. Nearly 
all cf them drank to intoxication. Aware of power, they insulted' 
whom they listed; they sought occasion to quarrel as a Yankee 
does gold dust in California. They rode through plantations, killed 
their neighbors' cattle, took fish from other men's traps, and said 
what they pleased: more for contention than gain. Though the 
oppressed had the power, they were afraid to jrosecute them. 
They knew these human hydras had no mercy; they dread. d their 

retaliating vengeance* These men would follow their children while 
at work and whip them from one side of the field to the other. They 
would compel them to stand in the yard during cold, rainy nights 
until the little creatures were frozen beyond the power of speech . 
and sometimes their wives shared no better fate. A fine colt, be- 
longing to Stephen Lewis, once did some trifling mischief, when the 
owner, enraged shot it dead on the instant. Anything, man or 
beast, that dared cross them perilled its life. They neither shelter- 
ed themselves under the strong arm of the law nor permitted others 
to do so. They neither gave nor asked for mercy. Yet these men 
were unfailing friends when they chose to protect. Their pledge 
was as sure as anything human could be: if they threatened death 
or torture, those threatened always thought it prudent to retire to 
the very uttermost part of the earth; if they vowed protection, their 
pxotege felt secure. Some of their remote relations are still living 
iu Randolph County: they are among our most worthy citizens, but 
they never tamely submit to insult. Some inquire how such men as 
the Lewises could even intermarry with other families; who would 
»wnite themselves to such cold hearted creatures ? 

While such characters are in some respects to be abhorred, yet 

there is about them something that has in all ages been attractive. 

iLadies are accused because they fall in love with fops, of wanting 

common sense, and of loving vanity rather than substance. The 

accusation is false. Except the love of a Christain for his Lord, the 

!ove of a woman is the purest and truest thing on earth; sweet as 

'the incense of heaven, soft as the air of paradise, and confiding as 

ithejanib; it scorns the little, the vile, and the treacherous. The 

trendrils of a woman's aflection despise the shrubs of odor and beauty 

to entwine closely and eternally around h'gh forest trees, that are 

-exposed to howling storms and the thunders of Jove. The trees 

may be rough and crooked, but then they are trees. Find a man 

of great intellectual power, of iron will, of reckless daring, but o 

unshaken fideliiy; in such you find a master magnet around which 


woman's hearts collect by natural attraction. But how can a pure 
and good woman love such a wicked man? Nonsense, thou puritan I 
She does not love his wickedness but his soul. Did not the Saviour 
love a wicked world, though He died to destroy its wickedness ? 
Then a woman will love a wicked man better than a good one, will 
she? No, she will love the good man much the best, other things 
being equal. But you make the daring deeds of wickedness the 
exponents of man's greatness. I do no such thing. I make ac_ 
tions that require power, energy and firmness, test of greatness: 
that such actions should be tainted with evil is a blot that mars them 
in no small degree; but still they are great actions, i. e., the pro- 
ducts of powerful minds. There are-certain philosophers in the 
world that would make all great actions cease to be great when they 
cease to be good; they would make their greatness directly as their 
goodness. There are evidently two qualities: the one measuring the 
action per se, the other its moral character. Genuine love is as fol- 
lows: woman loves the power that is able to protect and support, 
and if that power be good she will love it the more; man loves the 
gentle, confiding one that leans upon him with confidence, and 
trusts him with her destiny; if she be good he will love her the 
more. This may be grossly misunderstood, but fools will not see 
and the wise can see our meaning — is it not therefore, plain enough. 

We will hazard an axiom or two while on this point: No woman 
will or can really love a man who is intellectually her inferior. No 
woman can love a man who has no confidence in his fidelity and 
protection. If a powerful man be true to his wife, she being wha fc 
she should, she will love him though he stain his hands in blood ,. 
and be guilty of the foulest deeds known in the catalogue of crime. 
But this is an unbardonable digression, let us return: 

But few of the Lewises died natural deaths. Stephen Lewis was 
most unmerciful to his wife. He often whipped her with hobble- 
ods, and otherwise abused her beyond endurance. Finally, by the 

aid of Richard, a brother of Stephen, she escaped from home and 
spent several months with an acquaintance. Richard a*t lenghth 
told Stephen that his wife would return if he would promise never 
to abuse her any more. This he promised on the word of a Lewis. 
Richard therefore told him to come to his house on a certain day 
and he would find her. At the time appointed Stephens went and 
found his wife and took her on his horse to convey her home. On 
the way he made her tell the means of her escape and the agents 
employed. The agent, as we have said, was his brother, Richard. 
Stephen went home, kindly told his wife that he should henceforth 
treat her rightly, but that he intended to shoot the scroundrel, Rich- 
ard. Loading his gun, he immediately returned to his brother's. 
Richard happening to observe his approach aud conjecturing his 
object, fled upstairs with his gun. Stephen entered the house and 
enquired for Richard. Not learning from the family, and supposing 
him to be upstairs he started up, and as his head came in view Rich- 
ard shot him, but did not kill him. Stephens was carried home and 
for a long time was unable even to sit up, still swearing, however, 
that when he recovered he would shoot Richard. His brother, 
knowing that the threat would be executed, went to the house one 
day while Stephen was sitting on the bedside having his wounds 
dressed. Through a crack in the house, Richard shot him through 
the heart. It is said that the manner of men's death frequently 
resembles their lives. The fate of the Lewises seems to confirm the 
fact. They were heartless tyrants while they lived, and, as tyrants .. 
deserve, they died cruel and bloody deaths. 


Like a lovely tyro 

She grew to womanhood, and between whiles 

Rejected several suitors, just to learn 

How to accept a worse one in his turn. — Byron. 

Naomi Wise was a lovely girl, just blooming in all the attract- 
iveness of nineteen. Though serving as a cook, and sometimes as 
outhand, she was the light of the family and was treated better than 
such persons usually are. She was neatly dressed, rode to church 
on a fine horse, and was the occasion of many youngsters visiting; 
~the house of Mr. Adams. Among those who frequently found it 
convenient to call at Mr. Adams' was Jonathan Lewis. His father, 
Richard Lewis, the same that shot Stephen, lived near Centre 
Church, on Polecat Creek, in Guildford County. Jonathan was clerk- 
ing for Benjamin Elliott, at Ashboro, Randolph County, and in pass- 
ing from Centre to Ashboro it it was directly in his way to pass 
through New Salem. Jonathan, like others of the Lewis name, was 
a large, well-built, dignified-looking man. He was young, daring 
and impetuous. If he had lived in Scotland he would have been a 
worthy companion for Sir William Wallace or Robert Bruce; in 
England he would have vied with the Black Prince in coolness and 
bravery; in France he might have stood by the side of McDonald 
in the central charge of Wagram; in our own Revolution his bra- 
very and power would, perhaps, have saved the day at Brandywine. 
He was composed of the fiercest elements: his wrath was like whirl- 
winds and scathing lightnings; his smiles, like sunbeams bursting 
through a cloud, illumined every countenance upon which they fell. 
He never indulged in tricks or small sport; the ordinary pastimes 
of youth had no attractions for him. The smallest observation would 
teach that such men are capable of anything; once engaged they 
are champions in the cause of humanity; but once let loose, like 


unchained lions, they tear to pieces both friend and foe. The great- 
est men are capable of being the greatest scourges. Leonidas was 
a rock upon which Persia broke, but some provocation might have 
made him a rock by which Greece would have been ground to pow- 
der. Dr. Hatteraik was a during smuggler, who, in a low, black 
lugger, defied the power of England.; if that government had treated 
this man wisely, he might have been an admiral to eclipse Nelson. 
•Our daring, headstrong boys are generally given over as worthless, 
-and here is a mistake: the world neither understands the mission 
nor management of such powerful minds. Bucephalus was pro- 
nounced a worthless animal by the whole court of Philip. Alexander 
alone perceived his value and knew how to manage him. Bucephalus 
was the greatest horse the world ever saw. 

Jonathan Lewis saw Naomi Wise and loved her. She was the 
; gentle, confiding, unprotected creature that a man like Lewis would 
love by instinct. Henceforward he was a frequent visitor at the 
Adams'. The dark clouds that had so long hovered over the or- 
phan were breaking away; the misty, dim vista of the future opened 
with bright, clear light and boundless prospects of good; the fogs 
.rolled away from the valley of life, and Naomi saw a pretty path- 
way bordered with flowers and crossed only by little rills of pure 
water. Her young and guileless heart beat with new and higher 
life; that she was loved by a man so powerful as Lewis was suffi- 
cient recompenses for a cheerless childhood. Day and night she 
labored to procure the indispensables of housekeeping; for in those 
days it was esteemed disreputable if a girl by the time she was 
twenty, had not made or earned for herself a bed, some chairs, 
.pots, tubs, ect. And a young lady then modestly displayed her 
-things to her lover with as much care as modern misses display 
their needlework, paintings and acquirements on the piano. Instead 
of going to the piano, to the dance and other such latter day inven- 
tions, youngsters went with the ladies to milk the cows and dis- 
played their gallantry by holding the calves away while the operation 


was performed, and they then accompanied the damsels to the spring 
to put away the milk and bring back a pail of water. 

Time flew on. Lewis still continued to clerk, and won the good 
opinion of his employer. Naomi was blooming in all the charms o 
early womanhood; her love for Lewis was pure and ardent; and the 
rumor was abroad that the marriage was shortly to take place. But 
an evil genius crossed the path of Lewis in the shape of his mother 
Her ambition and avaiice projected for her son a match of a differ- 
ent character. She deemed it in the range of possibility that Jona- 
than might obtain the hand of Hettie Elliott, the sister of Benjamin 
Elliott, his employer. That mothers are ambitious everybody 
knows, and that they are the worst of match-makers is equally- 
well known. But Mrs. Lewis thought Miss Elliott a prize worthy 
an effort at least. The Elliotts were wealthy, honorable and of high 
repute. They have always stood high in this country, and 
citizens have delighted to honor them with public and private 
friendship. Mr. Elliott, Hettie' s brother, evidently prized Lewis 
highly; he regarded him a? an honorable, intelligent and industrious 
young gentleman, and no doubt thought him a respectable match 
for his sister. Lewis made some advances to Hettie, which were 
received in such a way as to inspire hope. 

This was the turning of the tide in the fortunes of Lewis. The 
smile of one superior to Naomi Wise in every respect except beauty 
and goodness, the earnest exhortations of an influential mother and 
the prospect of considerable property, bore down all obstacles. The 
pure love of Naomi Wis.e and the native and genuine passion of his 
own heart were not equal to a conflict with pride and avarice. Not 
but that Lewis, or any other man, could and would love Hettie 
Elliott. She was accomplished, beautiful and of charming manners; 
an Elliott could not be otherwise. But these were not the attrac- 
tions that won Lewis. Money, family connections, name and sta- 
tion were the influences that clouded the fair prospects of innocence 
opened the flood gates of evil, and involved all the parties con- 
cerned in ruin. 


Tapper has wisely said that nothing in ibis world is single, that 
all things are in pairs; and the perfection of earthly existence con- 
sists in propcly pairing all the separate elements. Two elements 
properly adapted have a natural attraction, and firmly adhere amid 
all circumstances of prosperity or disaster; but two elements im- 
properly mated repel each other with natural and undying repul- 
sion, in spite of circumstances or calculation. The young instinct- 
ively and naturally love those that would make them happy; but 
pride, family interference and cold-hearted calculation often inter- 
pose; sordid considerations tear asunder the holiest cords of affec- 
tion, and vainly attempt" to thwart nature's own promptings. Lewis 
loved Naomi Wise for herself; no selfish motive moved his heart or 
tongue; theirs would have been a union of peace and joy; he wished 
to marry Miss Elliott, not because he loved her, but because he was 
influenced wholly by other base considerations. 

An old adage says: "the better anything is in its legitimate 
sphere, the worse it is when otherwise employed." Lewis, no 
doubt, would have been an honorable and useful man if he had 
married Naomi Wise; he would then have been using the highest 
and strongest principle of human nature in a proper manner. In an 
evil hour he listened to the tempter; he turned aside from the ways 
of honor and truth; his eyes became blinded; conscience, the star 
of human destiny, lost her polarity, and the fierce storms of passion 
drove his proud ship into the maelstrom of ruin. Jonathan Lewis 
was no more the proud, manly gentleman; he was henceforth a. 
hard-hearted, merciless wretch. He was a hyena, skulking about 
the pathway of life, ready alike to kill the living or to tear the dead, 
from their graves. He not only resolved to forsake a lovely damsel, 
but first to ruin her fair name. His resolve was accomplished. He 
might have foreseen that this would ruin his prospects with the: 
beautiful Miss Elliott; but "the wicked are blind and fall into the- 
pit their own hands have digged." There are many ways young; 
men n®w moving in high society think that violets were created to- 


be crushed by haughty boot heels; that desert flowers should rather 
be blasted than waste their sweetness on the air; that pearls should 
rather adown a Cyclops than shine in their native deep. Not so, 
ye cannibals! If names must be blasted and characters ruined, in 
t he name of heaven, let your victims come from among the affluent 
and the honorable! Who will pity and protect the poor daughter 
of shame? Who will give her a crumb of bread ? The more wealth}/- 
victim might, at least, have bread to eat, water to drink, and where- 
withal to be clothed. Ye fair, blooming daughters of poverty, shun 
the advances of those who avoid you in company as you would 
shun the grim mother, death. 

Lewis, aware that a period was approaching that would mar all 
his hopes, unless they should be immediately consummated, urge 
his suit with all possible haste. Miss Elliott, however, baffied him 
on every tack, and, though she encouraged him, gave him but little 
hope of succeeding immediately. In the meanwhile Naomi urged 
the fulfillment of his promise: that he would marry her forthwith, 
seconded by the power of tears and prayers. Then these means 
seemed un vailing, she threatened him with the law. Lewis, alarmed 
at'thfSj charged her, at the peril of her life, to remain silent; he told 
her that their marriage was sure, but that very peculiar circumstances 
required all to be kept silent. But before he could bring matters 
to an issue with Miss Elliott, rumor whispered abroad the engage- 
ment and disgrace of Naomi Wise. This rumor fell like a thunder 
bolt on Lewis; tha depths of a dark but powerful soul were stirred, 
his hopes were quivering upon a balance which the next breath 
threatened to ruin. With the coolness and steadiness which inno- 
cence is wont to wear, Lewis affirmed to Miss Elliott that said rumor 
was a base and malicious slander, circulated by the enemies of the 
Lewis family to ruin his character, and offered that time, a very fair 
r.rbitnr, should decide uppn the report, and, if adjudged guilty, he 
would relinquish all claim to her, Miss Elliott's hand, For several 
days Lewis was apparently uneasy, appeared abstracted, neglected 


his business, and was not a little ill. Mr. Elliott assigned one cause 
Miss Elliott another, but the true one was unknown to any one. 
The kingdom was in motion, dark deeds were in contemplation, 
and at last the die was cast. Mrs. Adams had frequently of late 
told Naomi that Lewis did not intend to marry her, that he was 
playing a game of villiany, and that she should place no more con- 
fidence in any of his assertions; but the poor girl thought or hoped 
differently; she could not or would not believe that Jonathan Lewis 
was untrue. Woman's love cannot doubt. Lewis at length came to 
see Naomi, and told her that he did wish the marriage delayed 
any longer, that he had made all necessary arrangements, and that 
he would come and take her to the house of a magistrate on a cer- 
tain day. She urged the propriety of the marriage taking place at 
the house of Mr. Adams, but he refused, and she, without much 
reluctance, consented to his wishes. Time sped on, the last mom 
rolled up the eastern vault in his chariot, dispensing light and joy 
to millions. Naomi walked forth with light heart and step, think- 
ing only of her coming nuptials. During the day, in the midst oi 
her anticipations, gloomy forebodings would disturb her. Like the 
light breeze preceding thestorm, they seemed to come and go with- 
out cause. So true it is: " that coming events cast their shadows 
before. " She told nothing of what was about to take place to Mr. 
Adams, but, at the appointed time, taking the water pail m her 
hand, she went to the spring, the p'ace at which she had agreed to 
meet Lewis. He soon appeared, and took her on his horse behind 
him. It is said that the stump off which Naomi mounted remained 
for more than seventy-five years, a5> many now living can testify, 

The last, lone relic of Naomi's love, 
A speaking monument of ^ wretch's heart; 
Like love, its grasp time scarce can remove, 
Like treachery, corruption -lurks in every part. 

The strong steed bore Naimi rapidly from the home of her 
childhood and youth; from the kind Mrs. Adams, who was wont to 
soothe her in her trouble. 


Naomi soon perceived that they were not approaching the 
magistrate, by whose mystic knot sorrow was to be killed and joy 
born; but, to her great surprise Lewis, kept the direct road to the 
river, speaking to her in the meantime with rather a strange voice 
and an incoherent manner. She tried to imagine his object, but 
she was convinced that he would not take her to Ashboro, and she 
knew of no magistrate in the other direction; every effort therefore 
failed to give her troubled mind any peace. Slacking his pace to a 
slow walk Lewis and Nairr.i held the following conversation: 

" Naomi, which do you think is the easiest, a slow or a sudden 
death ?" 

" I am sure I don't know; but what makes you ask me that 

"Why, I was just thinking about it. But which would you 
prefer, if you could have choice? " 

"I would try to be resigned to whatever Providence might 
appoint, but since we cannot have our choice, it is useless to have 
any preference. ' ' 

" Well, Naomi, do you think you would like to know the time 
w hen you are to die ? ' ' 

"Why, Jonathan, what do you mean by such questions? I 
have never thought of such matters; and I am sure I never knew 
you to be mentic ning such matters before." 

Lewis rode on for some time without making any reply; seem- 
ing in a very deep revery; but, in fact, in the most intense excite- 
ment. At length he remarked: 

'I Well, Naomi, I believe I know both the time and the manner 
of your death, and I think it is in my power to give you your 


This ran through the poor girl like the dart of death; it was 
some minutes before she could make any reply. 

*' For the Lord's sake, Jonathan, what do you mean; do you 
intend to kill me ? or why do you talk so ? " 

"I will never harm you; we shall be married in two hours. 

As you see I am going to as I first intended, but am 

going across the river where we shall have a nice wedding.'' 

<l Jonathan, I am afraid everything is not right, and I feel so 
bad this evening. I had rather go home and put the wedding oft 
until another day." 

'*No, no, that will not do. I tell you again you need fear 
anything. Just be perfectly contented, and fear no harm from him 
who loves you better than he loves himself." 

They were now on a high bluff that commanded an extensive 
view of the river and of the country beyond. The bold, rocky 
channel of the stream was distinctly visible for a great distance to 
the southeast; whilst from the northwest came the river, now swol- 
len by recent rains, roaring and tumbling over rocky ledges and 
then moving calmly away. A blue Crane was flying slowly above 
the bed of the stream and many ravens were cawing and screaming. 
The scenery was fheightened by the dusk of evening, strongly im- 
pressed Naomi, and she remarked to Lewis: 

Jonathan, I am almost afraid to be in this lonely place; I wish 
we were away from here. O how happy I should be if we had a 
quiet home like yon from which the smoke is rising over the hills. 
It may be foolishness, Jonathan, but I want you to be careful about 
going down these banks and crossing the river. I have so often 
feared something would happen to prevent the happiness we expect; 
1 am sure I never feft so bad in my life. 

Lewis reined up his horse, stopped for a short time, and then 
started forward, muttering: 

" I will, though I am a coward !" 

Naomi asked him what he was saying: he replied that he only 


meant that they should be married that night. The river here 
was tolerably wide, and below the ford some little turf islands 
covered with alders and willows, made several sluces. Lewis rushed 
his horse into the water, which came up to his sides, and plunged 
forward rapidly until he reached the middle of the channel; then, 
stopping his beast and turning himself in the saddle, he said, in a 
husky voice: 

' ' Naomi, I will tell you what I intend to do; I am going to drown 
you in this river; we can never marry. I find I can never get away 
from you, and so I am determined to drown you." 

"Oh, Jonathan ! Jonathan!*' screamed his victim, "you do- 
not, you cannot mean what you say ! Do not frighten me so much. 
Make haste out of here ! '' 

"I mean just what I say," said Lewis; "you will never go 
from here alive. You cannot move me by words or tears; my mind 
is fixed. I swear by all that is good or bad that you have not got 
five minutes to live. You have enticed me to injure my character; 
you have made me neglect my businesss. You ought never to have 
been such a fool as to expect that I would marry such a girl as you 
are. You did not expect that I was taking you off to marry you 
when you got up^behind me, did you ? You, no doubt, thought that 

I would take you to Asheboro, and keep you there as a base . 

Prepare to die!" 

"My Lord! what shall I do!" cried Naomi. "You know, 
Jonathan, that I have loved you with my whole soul. I have 
trusted you, and when you betrayed me I never reproached you. 
How often did I tell you that you did not intend to marry me? 
How many times did I tell you to be honest with me! And after 
all, you will certainly not drown me? Oh, Jonathan ! for heaven's 
sake take me out of this river! Do, oh, do! Oh, spare my life! I will 
never ask you to marry me! I will leave the country! I will not evert 
mention your name again, and — " 

Lewis stopped short her entreaties by grasping her throat with 

jsjortln Carolina State Library 

his left hand. Her struggles immediately threw them both from* 
the horse. Being a tail, strong man, he held her above the water - 
until he tied her dress above her head; then he held her beneath, 
his foot until he was alarmed by the glare of torches approaching 
along the road he had just come. He mounted his horse and* 
dashed out of the river on the south side. 

Mrs. Davis lived at no great distance from the river, and she- 
had heard the death screaming of poor Naomi. She had heard the- 
startling cry as the villian caught Naomi by the throat; then she- 
heard the wild wail when she arose from the water, and, lastly, the 
stifled sobs as she was muffled in her dress. The old lady calledi 
her boys and bade them hasten to the ford; that somebody was, 
being murdered or drowned. But they were afraid to go; they- 
hesitate and parlied, and at last set out with blazing torches; but 
it was too late. They arrived only in time to hear the murderer - 
leaving the opposite bank. They neither saw nor heard Naomi. 
She was already dead; her last scream had died away, her last 
gasping groan had arisen through the rippling waters, and herr 
body was floating amid the willows of a turf-island. A pure and 
beautiful damsel, she had attracted the admiration of a cold-hearted >i 
world without gaining its respect; her pathway had been waylaid 
by those who thought poor, unprotected beauty bloomed only to - 
be blasted. Her pure and ardent affections having never enjoyed^ 
the sunshine of love were ready to grasp the first support that 
offered. She had given her heart to a deceiver; she had trusted, 
her life to a destroyer, and the waves that now bathed her lifeless 
form and rocked her on their cold bosom were the only agents, 
perhaps, that had ever acted toward her without selfishness. 

Early the next morning, the people of her home were search- 
ing in all directions for Naomi. Mrs. Adams had passed a sleepless 
night; a strange impression had instantly fixed itself upon her mind' 
as soon as Naomi was missed; and, in her broken slumbers during 
the night, she was aroused by sometimes imagining that Naomi i 


called her; at other times by dreaming that she saw her dead; and 
again by thinking she heard her screaming. At early dawn she 
aroused the vicinity, and going to the spring, the tracks of a horse 
were readily discovered, and by the sign, it was evident that Naomi 
had mounted from the stump. The company followed the tracks 
until Mrs. Davis and her boys were met coming in haste to tell the 
circumstances ol the preceding evening. The old lady told the 
crowd of the screaming she had heard; that the boys had gone 
down to the river with the lights and had heard a horseman gallop- 
ing from the opposite bank. 

" Ah !" exclaimed the old lady, " murder has been done, sich 
unearthly screams can't come o' hothin'; they made the very hair 
raised on my head, an' the very blood curdle In my heart. Of, ef 
I been young as I once was I would-a rnn down there and killed 
'the rascal afore he could a got away. My goodness! what is the 
world a com in* to?" 

The company hastened to the river, and in a short while dis- 
• covered the body still muffled in the clothing. She was quickly 
born to the shore and laid upon a rock. Upon the fair neck of 
the dead were still to be seen the marks of the r affair's fingers. The 
coroner was sent for, the jury summoned, and the verdict pro- 
nounced: " drowned by violence !"' Some of the vast crowd assem- 
bled suggested that Lewis should be sought and brought to the 
corpse ere it was- interred. This was assented to by acclamation: 
but who would do it? Who would dare apprehend a Lewis ? A 
<.firm, brave officer of Randolph County accepted the task, and hav- 
ing selected his company from the numerous candidates, for every 
youth on the ground offered, proceeded to Ashboro. 

So soon as Lewis saw the light coming, while he was at his 

work of death as above said, he dashed out of the river having no 

doubt but that the water would bear the body into the deep pool 

♦below the<ford, and thus render discovery impossible. We have 

-seen that in this he was mistaken. Leaving the river he rode rapidly 


around to another ford, and hastened to his father's house, near 
Centre Meeting House. He dashed into the room where his moth- 
er was sitting, and asked for a change of clothes. The old lady, 
alarmed, asked him why he came at that time of week (for he usu- 
ally came on Sunday) why he was wet, and why he looked so pale, 
and spoke in such a strange voice. He replied that he had started 
home on some business, and that his horse had fallen with him into 
the river, and that his wet clothes made him look pale and altered 
bis voice. His mother had too much sagacity to believe such a tale,, 
but she could obtain from him no other explanation. Having pro- 
cured i. change of apparel, he departed, and arrived at Ashboro 
early next morning. Riding up to Colonel Craven's residence he 
called at the door. Mrs. Craven answered the call, and exclaimed, 
in astonishment: 

"What is the matter, Lewis? What have you been doing? 
Have you killed 'Omi Wise?" 

'Jonathan Lewis was stunned; raising his hand and rubbing his 
eyes, he said: 

*• Why ? What makes you ask me that question ?" 

11 No particular reason," said Mrs. Craven, " only you look so 
pale and wild; you don't look at all like yourself." 

Lewis made no reply, but the flushed countenance which he 
exhibited would have afforded no small evidence to a close observer 
that something was wrong. So true is it "that the wicked flee 
when no man pursueth." Leaving Ashboro, Lewis went to a sale 
at a Mr. Hancock's, at a place afterward owned by Thomas Cox. 
During the day it was remarked by many that Jonathan Lewis had 
a cast of countenance by no means usual. Instead of the bold, dar- 
ing independence that was usual to him, he seemed reserved, down- 
cast and restless. By indulging freely in drink, which was always 
to be had on such occasions, he became more like himself towards 
evening, and ventured to mingle among the ladies. For it should 
&e; observed,! that dn those days ladies attended venues, elections, 


musters, etc., without derogation to their character. And, in very 
many places, a young nun showed his gallantry by collecting the 
fair ones whom he would honor, and conducting them to some 
wagon, where his liberality was displayed by purchasing cake, cider, 
etc Let it not be supposed that the custom was confined to the 
low and vulgar, for the practice was well nigh universal. Ojr lady 
readers must not think it is beneath their dignity to read of such 
characters, for our mothers, and perhaps, theirs also, have received 
such treats. Lewis, on the occasion ab>ve named, seemed particu- 
larly attracted by Martha, daughter of Stephen Huzzi After wait- 
ing upon her, according to the custom of the time«, Lewis accom- 
panied her home. The manner of courting at that day was very 
different from what now prevails; the custom then was for the young 
people to rennin in the room after the old people had retired, then 
seat themselves beside each other, and there remain until 12 or 2 
o'clock. Lewis had taken his seat and drawn Martha on his lap, 
a rather rude move, even for that time, and not a little contrary to 
Martha's will — *vhen a gentle rap was heard at the door. While the 
inmates were listening to hear it repeated, the door opened, and 
Robert Murdock, the brave officer who had pursued Lewis, entered 
attended by a retinue which at once overawed the unarmed mur- 
derer. He suffered himself to be arrested and taken back to the 
river bank, where the body of his victim still remained. He put 
his hand upon her face and smoothed her hair apparently unmoved. 
So greatly was the crowd incensed at this hard hearted audacity 
that the authoritv of the officer was scarcely sufficient to prevent the 
villian's being killed on the spot. Evidence against Lewis, although 
circumstantial, was deemed conclusive. The hoof prints from the 
stump to the river exactly fitted his horse; hairs upon the skirt on 
which she rode were found to fit in color; a small piece, torn from 
Lewis' accouterment, fitted both rent and texture; his absence fronii 
Ashboro, and many other minuter circumstances, all conspired to 
the same point, In proper form he was committed to jail at Ash- 
boro to await his trial. 


The next day a vast company attended the remains of Naomi 
Wise to the grave. The whole community mourned her untimely 
death; the aged wiped a tear from their wrinkled faces; the young 
men stood there in deep solemnity and sighed over the fair one now 
pale in death; many, very many maidens wept over betrayed and 
blasted innocence, and all were melted in grief when the earth hid 
the form of Naomi Wise forever. The writer knows not the place 
of her grave, else would he visit that lonely place and would place 
at her head a simple stone to tell her name, her excellence and her 
ruin; would plant there appropriate emblems, and drop a tear over 
the memory of her who sleeps beneath. 

"Oh, fair as the wild flower close to thee growing, 
How pure was thy heart till love's witchery came 
Like the wind of the South, o'er a Summer lute blowing. 
It hushed all its music and withered its fame. 

The young village maid, when with flowers she dressed 
Her dark, flowing hair for some festival day, 
Will think of thy fate till, neglecting her tresses, 
She mournfully turns from her mirror away." 

Although Lewis was confined in the strong jail, that then tow- 
ered in Ashboro as a terror to evil doers, his was not the character 
to yield without an effort; and such was his strength, skill or assist- 
ance, that he soon escaped. He broke jail and fled to parts un- 
known. Time rolled on, bearing upon its ever changing surface 
new scenes, actions and objects of thought. Naomi Wise was 
beginning to fade from memory, and Jonathan Lewis was scarcely 
thought of. The whole tragedy would, perhaps, have been lost in 
oblivion but for the song of " Omi Wise," which was sung in every 
neighborhood. At length, rumor, the persecutor and avenger, gave 
tidings that Jonathan Lewis was living at the Falls of the Ohio*, was 
married, had one child, and was considered to be in prosperous 
circumstances. The murdered girl rose fresh in the minds of the 
people. Justice cried: " Cut the sinner down !" Indignation cried: 
" Shame on the lingering servants of the law!" 


We will now repeat an old reliable tradition. Jonathan Lewi: 
fled the country, and the Lewis family soon followed his example. 
Jonathan Lewis had no idea of ever being arrested. One one occa- 
sion, at a corn shucking, a young man sang the tragedy of Naomi 
Wise, who was sadly deceived by Lewis' lies. Lewis was present, 
and became very much excited, which was noticed by the bystand- 
ers. On the way home the conversation between two men was en 
the subject that led to his detection. One remarked: 

"Tom, did you nodice Johnt. Lewis tonight when dat feller 
was singin' 'Naomi Wise' ?" 

"Yes, I nodiced he looked kind o' red. I've hearn him talk 
about Deep River, and Ashbury, an' Randolph County in Carolina, 
an' it's my opinion he's the feller. You see he goes armed with two 
heavy pistols and a hunting knife. He pretends he's afraid ol 
Injuns an' bars, but I hain't never hearn o' ennybody bein' hurt by 
a bar 'round here yit; an' so fur as Injuns is consarned there is no: 
one in fifty mile o' here. Why, we have got good skules whar al 
children can git all the book laming they want. We got lots o\ 
^ood preaching o' Sundays, an' we hev got the best community in 
the world. We'll go to our skule- teacher;. he"s got a jogafy, an' 
mebbe he can give us light so we can have the scoundrel brought 
to justice." 

The school teacher could readily locate Deep River, with its. 
head source at Dobson's Cross Roads, running through Guilford 
County, by Ballard's Soap Yards, and Beard's Hatter Shop, near 
Jamestown, by New Market, the first county-seat of Randolph, 
where Andrew Jackson made his maiden speech as a young lawyer 
the river made its way through the mountains of Randolph and 
Chatham counties, where Hector McNeill and Dave Fanning kicked 
up shinny in the old Revolution, and proved to be a tributary of the 
Cape Fear River. 

Accordingly, there was a letter sent from the Falls of the Ohio 
to the Sheriff of Randolph County, and directed to Ashboro. 

The Sheriff kept his own council. He wrote to the Governor 
to send him a bench warrant to take Lewis dead or alive. 


Col. Craven, Col Land and George Swearengain, properly 
commissioned, started in quest of the criminal. Many were the 
sighs and expressions oi anxiety that escaped their friends when 
these worthy citizens departed. All were aware that the enterprise 
was perilous. Most of the Lewis family had migrated to the same .-■ 
region, and one Lewis was not to be trifled with, much less a com- 
munity of such personages. But brave men, especially of Randolph 
County, sustained by justice, never count the foe or ask a parley, ... 
Having arrived in the neighborhood, or rather in the ceuntry, for 
they were yet some miles from Lewis' home* they made inquiry - 
until they found the circumstances and position of the families. 
Knowing that if they appeared in person their object would be 
defeated, they hired two sturdy hunters, for a fee of seventy- live 
dollars, to take Jonathan, dead or alive, and deliver him at a certain 
town. " No work, no pay." The three officers went to the town 
to await issue, and if it failed, to collect, if possible, such force as 
might be necessary to wage civil war on the whole offending tribe. 

The hunters, anknown to the Lewises, having arrived in the 
immediate vicinity learned that a great dance was to .take place 
that night, at a house in the neighborhood, and that all the Lewises 
would be there. They concluded that the occasion would enable 
them to execute their object, or at least make some useful observa- 
tions. They accordingly rode to the place, in appearance and pro- 
fession two wandering backwoodsmen. Arriving at the rude ience 
in front of the house, and seeing a considerable number of people^ 
already collected, one of the hunters cried out: ; 

1 Hallo, to the man of the house and all his friends!" 

"Hallo, back to you," said a voice within the house, "and 
may be you'd light and look at your saddle." j 

44 Apt as not," said the hunter, " if we are allowed lo see our 
saddles on the peg, our hosses eatin' fodder, and ourselves merry 
over hog and hominy." 

" Ef you are what you lookdike," said \ the landlord, stepping : 


^nto the yard, "and not Yankee specnlators. orbamfoozled officers 
nor Natchez sharpers, you are welcome to sich as we have." 

"And suppose we are not what we look like," replied the 
hunter, " what then?" 

"Why, the sooner you move your washing the better; we're 
plain, honest folks here, and deal with scatterlopers after their 

" Well, well," said one of the hunters," " we'll light and take 
some of your pone and a little of your blink-eye, and maybe we'll 
get beter acquainted." 

So saying, the strahgers alighted, and having seen their horses 
•supplied with a bountiful quantity of provender, they entered the 
liouse and mingled with the guests without exciting suspicion or 
•even much notice. They had previously agreed that one should 
do the talking, lest they might commit some incongruities. A glance 
convinced them that Jonathan Lewis was not there. The guests con_ 
tinued to assemble — men, women and children; an old wrinkled 
faced vagabond commenced tuning his violin, and the parties were 
arranging themselves for the dance when a strong, powerful man en_ 
tered. His hair was long, bushy and matted as if it had never known 
the virtue of a comb; his eyebrows were dark and heavy; his step 
was decided and firm; he wore a belted hunting shirt, in the band of 
which hung a long, double-edged hunting knife, and under its folds 
were plainly visible two heavy pistols. His keen eye detected the 
strangers instantly, and forthwith he sought the landlord at the othe r 
end of the house, and engaged him in whispers. The hunters knew 
their man, and watched him with no little anxiety, nor was it long 
until he approached them and inquiringly said: 

" I reckon you are strangers in these parts ?" 

" I reckon we are, being as how we know nobody and nobody 
knows us; and we are perlite enough not to trouble strangers with 
foolish questions, and so I guess we shall still be." 


This answer to his implied question evidently displeased the 
interrogator, and after eyeing them for a moment, he continued: 

"But maybe we all come from the same land, and so might 
scrape up an acquaintainship easier than you think." 

"As to that it makes no difference, without telling or asking 
names: we give the right hand to every honest hunter." 

11 Then you're hunters, I s'pose, and as we are to have a great 
deer hunt tomorrow perhaps you'll join?" 

" That we will, ef it's agreeable." 

The dance passed off without anything remarkable happening, 
and early next morning the horns were sounding, the dogs yelping 
-aud everything alive for the hunt. In arranging the couples to 
-stand it happened that Jonathan Lewis and the talking hunter were 
stationed together, and the other stranger at no great distance. The 
drivers had departed, and the marksmen were reclining at ease, or 
examining their firelocks, when Jonathan discovered that he had no 
powder. As it would probably be an hour or two before the game 
would appear Lewis proposed to his companion that they should go 
to the village and suhply themselves with powder. They had no 
sooner started than the other hunter discovered his comrade to give 
the signal; he accordingly followed at some distance in the rear 
Close by the village he met Lewis and his companion on their re- 
turn. The hunters exchanged signs, and agreed to make the effort, 
'They were fully a vare of their peril, for though two against one they 
knew their antagonist to be much more powerful than either, and 
also that he was well armed. The hunter that met them pretended 
that he had become alarmed when he missed them, not knowing 
what might happen, and that he had come in search of them. He 
then asked about the powder, and requested to see some of it. 
While Lewis was pouring some in his hand, the other seized him 
from behind in. order to hold his hands fast, while the front man 
grasped him by the legs endeavoring to throw him. Like a second 
Sampson, Lewis tore his arms from the grasp of the hunter, and 


with a back handed blow sent him nearly a rod backward; at the 
same time kicking down the man that was before him. But before 
he could level his gun the first hunter gave him such a blow with 
the barrel of his gun that he reeled and fell; but, pointing his gun 
as the second hunter came up, he would have shot him dead if the 
other had not struck his arm. The flash of the gun, however, set 
iire to the powder, that in the melee had been split on their clothes 
and scorched all three not a little. Lewis, better capable of endur- 
ing such catastrophes than the others, would have escaped had nob 
the villagers arrived in sufficient strength to overpower him by the 
5orce of numbers. 

Col. Craven and his companions received Lewis bound with 
strong cords, and immediately started for Carolina, nor did they 
travel at any moderate rate, knowing that if the family with their 
confederates should overtake them death would be the fate of the 
weaker party; nor did the hunters tarry in the vicinity, but hurried 
themselves far away in the western wilds. After Lewis found that 
further resistance would be useless he seemed to submit to his fate 
and became more tractable and social, so much so that his bonds- 
were somewhat slackened and his captivity less strict. He awakened 
no suspicion by asking them to be less cautious, and seemed so much, 
more social than they had ever known him that his guards were al- 
most tempted to free him from all restraint. One evening, while in^ 
dulging their glee around the camp fire, Lewis, unobserved, untied 
his bonds, and springing up he started off with the agility of a youth. 
Craven and Swearengain pursued, but Craven ere long was left some 
distance in the rear. They were now in a low bottom, and the even- 
ing had so far advanced that Swearengain, who was in close pursuit 
could only see Lewis by the whiteness of his clothes. So expert was 
Lewis in dodging that he constantly eluded the grasp of his pursuer, 
^nd now within a few paces of a dense thicket, Swearengain making 
a spring, struck Lewis with a blow so effectual that it felled him to 
the earth, and before he could regain his feet he was- overpowered 
by both his pursuers. 


Lewis was finally brought to Randolph, from which county his 
trial was moved to Guilford. The sheriff of Guilford county know- 
ing that Lewis was such a terrible man, summoned the Greensboro 
Guards, with loaded muskets and fixed bayonets, to guard him to 
and from jail. The evidence was circumstantial, the witnesses had 
died or moved away, and Lewis came clear. Old Mr. John Archer 
saw him the next day, making his way home through the little vil- 
lage of Friendship, in the western part of Guilford County. 

At his release Lewis returned to Kentucky, and died ki a few 
years afterwards. After all hopes of his recovery were given up, 
and his friends watched around his couch only to perform the last 
offices of life, he still lingered. He seemed to suffer beyond huoiam 
conception; the contortions of his face were too horrid for human 
gaze; his groans were appalling to the ear. For two days the death 
rattle had been in his throat, and yet he retained his reason and his- 
speech. Finally, he bade every person to leave the room but his 
lather, and to him he confessed all the circumstances we have de- 
tailed. He declared that while in prison Naomi was ever before 
Hm; his sleep was broken by her cries for mercy, and in the dim, 
twilight hour her shadowy form was ever before him, holding up he? 
imploring hands. 

Thus ended the career of Jonathan Lewis, for no sooner was his 
confession completed than his soul seemed to hasten away. 



Come, all good people, now you draw near, 
A. sorrowful story you quickly shall hear, 

A story I will tell you about Naomi Wise, 

How she was deluded by Lewis' lies. 

He promised to marry and use her well, 
But conduct contrary I sadly must tell; 
He promised to meet her at Adams' spring, 
He promised marriage and many a fine thing. 

Still nothing he gave, but flattered the case. 
He said: "We will marry and have no disgrace; 
'•Come, get up behind me, we will go to town, 
And there be married, in union be bound." 

She got up behind him : he straightway did go 
To the banks of Deep River where the waters flow ; 
He said: "Now, Naomi, I'll tell you my mind; 
I intend to drown you and leave you behind." 

"0 ! pity your infant, and spare me my life! 
'Let me be rejected, and not be your wife !" 
"No pity, no pity," the monster did cry; 
"In Deep River's bottom your body shall lie !" 

The wretch then choked her, we understand. 
And threw her in the river, below a mill. dam. 
Be it murder or treason, ! what a great crime ! 
To drown poor Naomi and leave her behind. 

Naomi was missing! they all did well know, 
And hunting for her to the river did go; 
Finding her floating in the water so deep. 
Caused all the people to sigh and to weep. 

The neighbors were sent for to view the sight, 
For she had lain floating all that long night ; 
Ho early next morning the inquest was held, 
The jury correctly the murderer did tell. 

North Carolina State Library 


Craven, Braxton, 1822-1882, 

Life of Naomi Wise : true story of a bea 

3 3091 00195 2068 



^=Z Syracuse, N. Y. 
Z^I Stockton, Calif. 




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